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Spike Gives 'Buffy' a Darker, Sexier Tone

By Richard Harrington
    It's a match made in, well, not heaven. Among the most riveting developments
last season on UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was the odd coupling of
just-back-from-the-dead Buffy Summers, (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the
drop-deadly handsome, and ageless, platinum blond bloodsucker Spike, played by
James Marsters.

    Television has rarely seen anything like the passionate, sometimes violent
and abusive relationship between these longtime adversaries, reluctant allies
and, in the series' sixth season, haunted lovers.

    It's a long way from the '60s innocence of "Bewitched," where sweet witch
Samantha had a joyful relationship with mortal husband Darrin. As recently as
the late '80s series "Beauty and the Beast," Catherine Chandler managed to find
true love in the tunnels of New York with feline-faced man-beast Vincent. Heck,
Buffy herself spent her first two seasons in puppy love with Angel (David
Boreanaz), the mopey vampire with a soul who eventually went all evil, got
re-redeemed and moved on to his own series.

    This was a challenging season for "Buffy," one of television's most
insightful dramas about growing up and female empowerment, with demons and
vampires and the evil they conjure serving as metaphors for life's many trials.
It wasn't simply because the series moved from the WB to UPN. Buffy was still
reeling from the death of her mother, as well as her own death at the end of
season five. Resurrected by wicca Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and reluctantly
alive, she spent much of the season in a depression, unable to enjoy life after
being ripped out of what she called "heaven" by her friends in the Scooby
Gang--so named because, like the cartoon dog, she and her fellow demon slayers
and fighters chase scary things.

    Many critics, and even some long-time fans, thought last season was too dark
for too long, and series creator/executive producer Joss Whedon has conceded
that two of his goals were to have the increasingly solitary Buffy face the
inner demons that accompany maturity and explore the dark side of her power. The
show also toyed with the notion of its human characters confronting their demon
aspects and demons like Spike and 1,120-year old vengeance demon Anya (Emma
Caulfield) developing their humanity.

    In exploring the morally complex relationship between Buffy and Spike,
Whedon and co-producer Marti Noxon were able to touch darker, edgier and more
sexually oriented storylines. In fact, its volatility, including steamy and
surprisingly graphic sex scenes, was a constant topic on the multitude of
Buffy-related Internet sites.

    Spike has been called the most creative villain on television, and he's one
of the most striking: a stylish-in-black night stalker with a killer smile and
cheekbones to die for. He also has a bitingly sarcastic wit (the writers seem to
give him many of the best lines), delivered in a roguish British accent that
gave way to a more homespun Northern California accent (the actor grew up in
Modesto) when he appeared recently as the star attraction at Shore-Leave, the
annual sci-fi fan convention in Baltimore.

    Marsters, 29, spent two afternoons signing autographs and fielding questions
from an adoring throng of mostly female admirers who conceded that Spike may be
a psychopathic killer with two Slayers already under his belt, but he's also
incredibly sensitive and romantic and maybe, just maybe, Joss Whedon should let
him be redeemed. Already, Spike has gone from loathsome on arrival in Sunnydale
(his was supposed to be a short stay: here tonight, staked tomorrow) to likable
to lovable.

    "The thing is that Spike has been used in different ways," Marsters noted.
"He's had different jobs on the show--as disposable villain, hapless wreck for
comedic purposes, wacky neighbor by design, and then love interest." The actor
is thankful that the show's writers "have been forced to explore the character
so Spike would fit into these different roles."

    Last year's darker themes were somewhat facilitated by the move to UPN,
Marsters said. "There were a lot of things we couldn't do at the WB, while UPN
gave Marti and Joss a very long leash to explore. It's an interesting synergy.
At the time when Marti was really taking the reins, we moved to UPN. It seems
that Joss's crucible of experience, the thing that he draws from, is his
adolescence, and Buffy is no longer an adolescent. Marti's crucible seems to
have been in her mid-twenties and it's just perfect: now we have someone who
wants to explore herself with this metaphor. So we get a new head writer and a
new network, all of which facilitates exploring Buffy as a young adult, plus UPN
didn't have so much of a need for us to quell the darker side."

    Buffy had to deal with issues such as trying to find work to pay the bills,
battling the nerdy but persistent troika of "Archnemesis-sis-sis," and dealing
with the addiction to magic that turned Willow into last year's Big Bad. But the
lust/hate relationship between a melancholy Buffy and the lovesick Spike was the
show's strongest subplot.

    Having both battled and bedded Buffy, Marsters is asked which is more fun,
the romantic relationship or the adversarial one.

    "Man, it's one and the same, isn't it?" he exclaimed.

    In "Buffy's" exquisite musical episode, "Once More With Feeling," Spike sang
that "if my heart could beat, it would break my chest," later imploring: "Let me
take my love and bury it in a hole six foot deep/ Why won't you let me rest in

    But it wasn't long before his conflicted emotions exploded in "Seeing Red,"
possibly the season's darkest, most disturbingly violent episode, in which Spike
attempted to rape Buffy on the floor of her bathroom.

    "I can't watch it," said Marsters of that scene. "That's the hardest day of
work in my life. I went home shattered after that. I don't think I've still
picked up the pieces of that one. Sometimes the work gets real tough, I've got
to say. When the writing is that good and they're cutting that close to the
bone, it can surprise you sometimes how it can rock you."

    The recollection prompted Marsters to depart from his lighthearted banter
with the Shore-Leave fans. "Ladies, repeat after me," he said somberly. "If a
man isn't good to others, he isn't going to be good to you."

    "Seeing Red" was a crucial episode, forcing Spike to realize he can't remain
in limbo between being a monster and a good guy who lacks a soul. As last season
ended, Spike apparently sought to rid himself of the implanted pain chip that
had neutralized him as a vampire, while leaving him free to kick demon tail. To
the audience's, and possibly to Spike's surprise, in the last episode's final
scene, his soul was reinstated.

    Consequences of that action--whether Buffy will be able to love
Spike-with-a-soul, whether Spike will hate himself after feeling guilt for
centuries of death and torture--will likely be major plot lines this year.
They're exactly the kinds of thing fans love to ask about at conventions and
online chats, although Marsters and other cast members seldom give away future
plot developments.

    Plotting is Whedon's job. After signing a new four-year $20 million deal
with 20th Century Fox Entertainment, Whedon will continue making "Buffy" and its
spinoff, "Angel," for that studio and produce other new series. The first one up
is "Firefly," a sci-fi fall series for Fox that Whedon described as a space-age
western, an "anti-Star Trek" with no aliens. There's also a Saturday morning
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" cartoon for Fox and "Ripper," a spinoff for the BBC
starring Anthony Stewart Head, the English actor who plays Buffy's "watcher"

    "I don't know what's going to happen this year," Marsters said. The show's
brain trust "may explore something else entirely. But last year I think it was
important that no matter what the fans wanted in terms of redemption, we kept
very cleanly to [Whedon's vision], and I'm proud of that. We're not wussing out
on the metaphor. Life does get more complicated and more scary as you grow up,
and this is not for little kids."

    As for "Buffy," whose new season begins Sept. 24, Whedon and Noxon have let
it be known that Amber Benson, who as Tara died last year, will appear again,
and Head will return for 10 episodes as Giles. Also reappearing: ditzy vampire
Harmony (Mercedes McNab), flamboyant Hell goddess Glory (Clare Kramer), renegade
Slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) and even Spike's old flame, Drusilla (Juliet
Landau). The biggest comeback will be Sunnydale High, destroyed at the end of
the third season in 1999, now rebuilt and enrolling Buffy's sudden sister Dawn
(Michelle Trachtenberg), who is the same age Buffy was when the show began in
1997. Whedon has said that not only will the show be more positive, but Buffy
"is going to find herself in the position of becoming a leader . . . She's going
to have to approach her calling, and her problems, from a very different

    Marsters, with a lot of theater experience and a few brief guest appearances
on series such as "Northern Exposure," made his entrance in "School Hard," the
third episode of "Buffy's" second season. Spike and his loopy vampire
girlfriend, Drusilla, arrived as the Sid and Nancy of Sunnydale, with Marsters
patterned on Sid Vicious, Billy Idol and "Lost Boys"-era Kiefer Sutherland.

    "I was told very bluntly that I'm not going to be here very long: 'Dude,
you're going to die, you're cannon fodder,' " Marsters said with a laugh. "I did
one season of 10 episodes and the story arc was very well completed. And they
brought me back for one episode in season three--they often do that with
characters for an episode or two --and I thought, well, maybe I'll get one this
year, maybe I'll get one next year."

    By season four, Marsters was invited to join the cast full time, reflecting
his huge popularity among fans and growing favor with Joss Whedon.

    "We knew that James was great from day one," said Whedon. "The question was
how much he would become a part of the show. As writers, we were getting to know
him as a good bad boy. He brings a lot of soulfulness that's genuine to the

    "It was apparently when Joss saw Spike being quite humbled and pitiful and
human that he finally saw something in the character that he thought was
sustainable," said Marsters. He added, "I had asked him to give me two weeks
notice before he takes my shirt off, just to give me some time to pump up."

    Pointing to his muscles, Marsters joked: "It's your product, you want to
make it ready. And Joss got this weird look on his face and called me over to
the side of the sound stage and said, 'Get ready, dude, cause you're going to go
for Buffy next year.'

    He's done a lot of Buffy-esque things this year including providing Spike
voice-overs for the new animated series as well as the "Buffy the Vampire
Slayer" Xbox video game from Fox Interactive. Having already starred in various
"Buffy" comic books and modeled for his own collectible action figure, Marsters
also has just released a CD by his band, Ghost of the Robot.

    One of the few obstacles the actor faces is, understandably, the sun. Spike
is necessarily pale, so Marsters, who already undergoes painful peroxide
treatments for his hair twice a month, stocks up on sunblock and generally
avoids the beach until twilight.

    The other challenge is "keeping rail thin. I've been after a body type since
I got on the show. When I came to L.A., I was 200 pounds and working out--and
then I got the role. Playing a vampire for six years, it's hard to be hungry,
but I'm a metaphor for hunger, psychological and sexual. And I noticed that the
only vampires to really hit the American consciousness and stay there were
almost unhealthily thin, with the one exception of the original, Bela Lugosi."

    Still, Marsters is probably the first size 28-waisted vampire in that colony
of actors who have tackled this classic character. His mark on the role was
noted recently by none other than Barnabas Collins, that elegant vampire on the
'60s soap opera "Dark Shadows."

    "I just got an autographed picture of Jonathan Frid," the actor who
portrayed Collins, exulted Marsters. "He said, 'You've made it, man!'"



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D's Chibi Buffy the Vampire Slayer Shrine

4-25-02: Ok Hmm, i think Buffy does love Spike.
4-24-02Yay! I got my ShoreLeave badge number! I'm preregged! Whoo hoo!And if you try really hard you can watch 21 hours of buffy a week. =^_^=;;

The shrine's so small it's actually 4 paragraphs on the least seen part of my website. =^_^=;; Ok, last year I became a really hard core Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan. Mostly thanks to the Fox Network [YAY, FX!] and their 2 episodes a night [and the same 2 the next morning if you feel like recording] and the fact that I was kind of pissed off most of last year towards the end. [Seeing LOTR 3 times probably was great therapy too!]

Much of my intrest in BTVS was brought about because I came in right in the middle of season 4 where Spike gets chipped by the Initiative the government's attempt to control the paranormal and occult. (They were a fun bunch. =9_9=) SPOILER WARNING: for those who haven't seen those episodes.The text is in black if you want a short descSpike comes back to town to do his usual Kill-Kill-Hate-Hate-Murder-Murder-Mutilate schtick gets bagged by the soliders and gets a chip implanted in his head that gives him Grand Mal migranes if he tries to hurt humans, BUT he can kick all the deamon butt he wants to which makes him able to hang out with the Scoobie Gang as a semi useful member, who'd probably kill them if he wasn't chipped. Then in season 5, he goes and falls in love with Buffy and it gets more complicated than unraveling a gordian knott with mittens on and no fingers. Anyway I'm a sucker for the under dog/unrequited love type, and since Spike can't be his normally evil self you feel sorry for him, and I'm pretty sure that if the chip is ever removed he'd definitely kill someone.  

I just saw the Once more with Feeling, and Smashed episodes of Buffy recently. And Just about everyone in the cast has a great singing voice! Best voices IMHO: Tara [Willow's girl] has a beautiful singing voice], Anthony Stewart Head [well I knew he was in Rocky Horror and could sing] very cool voice! James Marsters came right out of left feild, He has an amazing voice. you can wake up to it in the morning! The guy could put out a CD  It's really amazing. Try the Bring it on link in the side bar for a site that has mp3 of all the songs for that episode.  Did I mention he's sexy? I mean like for real? And I NEVER EVER use that adjective to describe a guy. So like, wow.=0.o= If you see that episode try to find the uncut version with the extra 8 minutes instead of the one UPN shows on repeat. They had to cut 2 of the songs down.

Smashed, OK I thought the title of this episode had something to do with Spikes chip getting broken, but it actually had to do with the last climactic [ooh bad pun! =#^_^#=] fight between Buffy and Spike... actually it started out as a fight and ended up as THE most intense sex scene I've ever witnessed on tv, at the least one of the best ones in a while, whoo hoo. XD If you read people using 'bring down the house' to describe it, that's a literal description. The first part of the fight got them into an abandoned house where they pretty much spent some quality time beating the crap out of each other and knocking many holes in the walls and many taunts from Spike which lead to Buffy shuting him up by kissing him [whoo hoo]. Which got them really destroying things as the make out session slammed them around, cracked the wall and landed them in the basement. Joss Whedon, you rock. and you brought down the house for that one. =^_-= I think most Buffy fans who liked that episode were happy the URST was over, sort of. =^_^=;;

Loyal Viewer
posted March 08,2002 3:35:18 PM EST @  TWO P forums.   
Spike in his duster or Spike with a head tilt
Spike makes me happy cause he is so well built
Spike loving Buffy and the heartache it brings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Giles while drunk or while snarking the masses
I love me some Giles when he's cleaning his glasses
Giles and his dry wit, and, oh, when he sings
These are a few of my favorite things.
When Willow's cute
When Xander quips
When there was a Big Bad
I sit and I think of my favorite things
And Season 6 doesn't seem so bad.

Tabula rasa

Bloody Awful Poet Society

Spike Spotting.com

Leoff Online Wildfeed

The Spoiler Slayer

Wendy's Spoiler Zone

The Buffy cross & Stake


Scribes corner

The Bronze Shelter

Buffy park

Pointy Stakes S/X slash?!

Anonymous works

11-22-02Hey guys,

I just posted this on BAPS and thought I'd share it here as well. I noticed that when Spike went out last night when he decked Xander he was wearing black leather pants, a sure sign of evilness. Who knows, by the end of this season Spike could end up back in the leather duster, with hat and pants to match. Buffy could get a job as a police officer. Willow could dress up as an Indian and Dawn could wear a jaunty sailor suit. Then Xander drops by after a hard day on the construction site and they all do a Village People song together to the tune of YMCA.



Slayer, There's no need to feel down

I said Slayer, climb up out of the ground

I said Slayer there are vampires to pound

There's no need to be bad moody.

Slayer, You're not over the hill

I said Slayer, Lots of demons to kill

You've got years left, of your Slayeriness

It's your real life that's a big mess.

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

It will make you feel strong

It will never be wrong

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

So long as it's not Spike

There's still that itch to scratch

Hey do they make a vampire patch?

Slayer, there's big baddies to kill

I said Slayer, helped by Xander and Will

I said Slayer, let young Dawnie help too

She's already six foot two.

Slayer, can't do it all by herself

I said Slayer, put your pride on the shelf

He can help too, that hot V-A-M-P

Maybe shirtless, we can just wait and see.

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

So long as it's not Spike

He still sleeps in the nude

I'm in a very happy mood

Slayer, those are very nice shoes

I said Slayer, Gucci or Jimmy Choo's

You can wear them, when you walk over Spike

Or whatever souled vamp you like

One day, you were just some dumb kid

Then that guy came, really flipped your young lid

He said, Chosen, kill a V-A-M-P

You could make it to twenty-three.

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

You'll have super strength and a keen fashion style

Mixing quips with great kicks all the while


Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

Just go and stake a big V-A-M-P

Slayer, Slayer, there's still Spike to be had

Slayer, Slayer, after you've killed the Big Bad